TEHRAN: The United States issued a pre-emptive warning to Iran on Thursday against pursuing three planned space rocket launches that it said would violate a UN Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.
Iran rejected the warning, issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying its space vehicle launches and missile tests were not violations.
Pompeo said Iran planned to launch in the coming months three rockets, called Space Launch Vehicles (SLV), that he said incorporate technology "virtually identical" to what is used in intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime's destructive policies place international stability and security at risk," Pompeo said in a statement.
"We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation."
Pompeo said the rocket launches would violate UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. It calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, however, said in a tweet hours later, "Iran's launch of space vehicles-- & missile tests--are NOT in violation of Res 2231. The US is in material breach of same & as such it is in no position to lecture anyone on it."
The top Iranian diplomat was referring the Washington's unilateral withdrawal from the multilateral nuclear deal in defiance of international objections as well as the resolution, to which it itself had voted 'Yes.'
The US then re-imposed all the anti-Iran sanctions it had lifted under the deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with which Iran has fully complied as repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Resolution 2231 terminated the provisions of previous UNSC resolutions against Iran, some of which had imposed restrictions on Iranian missile activities. Such activities are not prohibited under Resolution 2231, which merely calls on Iran "to refrain from any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."
Tehran has always emphasized that it has no nuclear warheads and that none of its missiles have been designed to carry nuclear weapons.
Iran has repeatedly said its missile activities are in line with its deterrence doctrine, and that it will continue testing conventional missiles.
Iranian Space Agency (ISA) Director Morteza Barari recently said three domestically-made satellites including Nahid-1 and Amir Kabir were ready for launch into space.
In 2009, Iran became the 9th country to put a satellite into the orbit using its own launcher. Since then Iran has sent several other satellites into the space.
In 2013, Iran, for the second time, successfully launched a monkey into space and safely returned it to the earth.